#Thinspiration is a hashtag that sends a feminist shudder down the spine of any in-the-know Internet browser. The hashtag that used to immediately pull up pictures of bony ribs, thigh gaps and sunken cheeks now brings up the following message on information sharing and social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr:
“Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices. They are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening.
For treatment referrals, information and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.”
Instagram has a similar message, connecting any “#thinspiration” photo with a warning that the photo may be graphic or triggering, and recommends sending the viewer to the national eating disorders website.
But #thinspiration has a not too distant cousin in the newer #fitspiration that might be just as harmful to body image. #Fitspiration aims to get Internet browsers up from hours online and urges them to lace up their Nikes. With its tagged photos showing men and women under dripping sweat and sculpted abs, it almost always prompts people to hit the gym hard.
#Fitspiration, or #fitspo, catchphrases range from “Working out is a reward, not a punishment” to “Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going!” These stylized texts are usually paired with a fitness model baring perfect abs, sculpted arms or thin and toned legs. To some, any encouragement of movement is a positive thing.
“The more people move, the better their life is going to be long term,” Christian Larson, kinesiology instructor, said.
With a growing rate of obesity and overweight Americans, #fitspo seems like simply another tool to get people moving.
“An overweight individual is at risk of having a number of different health issues ranging from diabetes to a bad back,” Dalton Graber, freshman in computer engineering, said. “If these ‘fitspiration’ quotes and images get someone off the couch who otherwise wouldn’t, then great. People need to be active to live long and stay healthy.”
However, not everyone thinks that “fitspiration” is the right form of encouragement to get people to move more. With the ideal it sets for a perfect body type bordering on unattainable, #fitspo leaves some wondering how they measure up.
“#Fitspiration makes me feel fat, but I’m okay with not looking that in shape,” Hope Gates, freshman in animal sciences and industry, said.
And for those who aren’t inclined to move in the first place, #fitspo doesn’t exactly have them leaping up to tie their running shoes and bolt out the door.
“Well, it does [inspire me to work out], but I’m lazy so I don’t,” Gates said.
Some said they believe that while getting active is good, the #fitspo motivation isn’t. With its catchphrases encouraging people to push past physical limitations until actual pain occurs, and glorifying obsessions with exercise over a balanced lifestyle, many said that #fitspo simply sets a new standard of how people should look. #Fitspo allows people to get obsessed with being fit, instead of rail thin models.
Many in the health and wellness community agree that #fitspo encourages a sexy, toned body above overall health. However, for all the zoomed in photos of abs or lean women lifting weights, there are multiple blogs denouncing these #fitspo images as triggering, unrealistic or a step too far.
Students agreed that #fitspo, while it has its place, isn’t for everyone.
“There are always people who take things and use them whether it applies to them or not,” Graber said. “In that sense, ‘fitspirational’ posts are terrible tools of destruction that can wreak havoc on a person’s self-esteem. That can lead to over exercising, bulimia or even starving themselves just to ‘become beautiful.'”
Of course, with most #fitspiration taking the form of memes that float around Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, people have the power to choose what they do and don’t view, to a certain extent.
“There’s people who it will turn off, but they don’t have to look at it,” Larson said. “So if someone is going to follow that, they’re gonna be okay with it.”
However, just as its predecessor #thinspiration fell out of favor, perhaps one day #fitspo too will be replaced by a more attainable and realistic ideal of what healthy looks like.